I’m not saying I always create and facilitate unity, but I have a very particular and strong desire to encourage friendship and unity if I can, regardless of people’s differing backgrounds. But something that breaks my heart, on a daily basis, is seeing the disunity of the people who love God. So I am writing today to hopefully tear down a few misconceptions or at least begin to scratch the surface. Whether Christian or non-believer, please follow me through these words and hopefully I can take you for an engaging ride.
First, I would like to take you to the well-known scripture in the New Testament book of the Bible called Romans. The book was written as a series of letters to the first-century Roman believers. It was written by one of the first Christian leaders named Paul. The verse I am referring to today is found in the third chapter and reads: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But I would particularly like to point out the verb tense of the phrase “fall short.” You will find that although “have sinned” refers to the past, “fall short” refers to the very current and present state of things.
We all fall short.
For non-Christians, this doesn’t mean that you are (or anyone is) evil, and for Christians, this statement actually reiterates that you are in need of God, that we are in no less need of mercy and grace than everyone else in this world. We all fall short. Thus, we all need God.
Contrary to what some might believe, this statement is not one of condemnation. It is meant to remind us—believers and nonbelievers alike—of God’s unfathomable faithfulness. Sin isn’t only the very apparent evils of murder, theft, and treachery. Sin is a matter of the heart. It is that awful feeling you get for having abandoned your best friend when she needed you or insulting your little brother’s heart’s passion. Sin is the self-sabotage of depression when you berate yourself with all the reasons you aren’t good enough. It is renouncing your inner (and outer) beauty that God carefully crafted uniquely for you. Sin is not being there for your parent when you said you would be. It is forgetting your neighbor when he gets sick because maybe you were working too much. It is denying the strength of family and tearing apart a marriage. Sin is not only hate, but it begins with apathy.
It is a tricky and sneaky thing—Sin. It is the heartbreak we see every day and sometimes (if not often) contribute to, whether we intended it or not. While the big things are bad, the little things matter to God too, not because he wishes to shame us but because he cares about even the smallest heartbreaks. Because the smallest things can and do cause the biggest challenges, and even those small things are the reason for His saving grace. Because He sees every part of us and He cares.
As Christians, people will hold us to a standard of Christianity that they have built. They will call us ‘innocent’ and ‘good,’ but it is our job to recognize the difference. Just because we are believers, doesn’t mean we are any better, stronger, or wiser. And we shouldn’t pretend like we are. We should admit when we have made mistakes. Even more—we should admit that we will make more mistakes in the future. We should admit that we don’t know everything and confess that maybe we don’t understand what it feels like to hurt like someone else. Because though we are believers, we are still humans in need of God’s love, his strength, his wisdom, his compassion. And sometimes, I feel like people don’t just need us to be right but even more, they need us to try, to understand, try to feel, try to be a friend.
Personally, I’m disinterested and exhausted at the thought of pretending like I’m perfect because I believe in God. And you should be too! Because when did that become the banner of the believer? And how did that ever become the acceptable merit? Because as much as you’d like to deny it, our people still believe it. And I would rather shamelessly cry out to God for mercy than proudly think that my heart has no need. We need God’s forgiveness because we get frustrated with people every day and irritated with family. We need him because when we mess up at work, he covers our mistakes and we don’t have to live ashamed. He makes me seem funny, cool and confident when really I’m insecure and afraid of embarrassment. And though the doctors have medicine, of course, they have no cure for age. And I know for a fact that I’ll need God’s comfort when I see my parents grow old and their bodies decay. And when life’s problems too often get too complex, I’ll need His brilliance to bring me help. I need him when I feel depressed so he’ll tell me to believe in myself and the plans he made for me. I need him because, though I’m a believer, I’m merely a human in need of love, comfort and trust. The Christian life is a hard one, but the world needs us to teach them how to love like Jesus. And we can only do that if we know humility and his forgiveness.
We all (believers or not) have times of unbelief where we need God, probably every single day. The only difference is that though the righteous man falls seven times, [he] rises again. Proverbs 24:16